Max Papis got his first taste of racing in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series last season. He enjoyed the experience so much, he’s coming back in 2014 and fielding a full-time team in the series.
Papis, who has nearly 100 starts across NASCAR’s three national series and is a two-time winner of IMSA’s Rolex 24 At Daytona, won’t be behind the wheel, though.
Instead, he’s providing an opportunity to a fellow Italian driver, 21-year-old Kevin Gilardoni.
Papis announced Thursday that Gilardoni will pilot the No. 99 for Max Papis Racing in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series’ Elite Division. That is the top class of the European stock car series, which enters its third year under the NASCAR banner.
“I would like to create this bridge in order to give opportunities to people that have the same dream I had,” Papis Thursday, during a media teleconference to announce the 2014 plans. “And at the same time obviously doing it with NASCAR, it’s a great opportunity. I would have not done it with any other series because obviously I know what’s behind the vision of everyone in the NASCAR series.”
Gilardoni has competed in the Eurocup Megane Trophy and Formula Renault 2.0 series, showing great talent and potential with multiple wins, pole positions and podium finishes in the past three seasons.
“I am looking forward to having a young and upcoming talent like Kevin Gilardoni in the Elite Series,” said Papis. “He is a self-motivated young man and I am looking forward to giving him the tools he needs to prove his ability in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series and selected late model races in the United States, creating a platform between racing in the United States and Europe.”
Papis was joined by Gilardoni and NASCAR Whelen Euro Series general manager Jerome Galpin on Thursday’s call to make the announcement.
“It is a great pleasure for the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series organization to welcome Max Papis and the Max Papis Racing team,” ” said Team FJ General Manager Jerome Galpin. “From his achievements, Max is clearly a racing legend but also the only European driver who’s succeeded in having a racing career in NASCAR. From its beginning in 2009, the series improved a lot and especially in building this strong link with the USA and NASCAR. The involvement of Max Papis and his U.S.-based team, with its perfect knowledge of the NASCAR way of racing, is the best proof of the strength of this link and of the international dimension of our series.”
“It is great to see a successful global racer like Max Papis become an owner in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series,” said Joe Balash, NASCAR’s international competition liaison. “Max understands what it takes to reach the highest levels of NASCAR racing and is perfectly positioned to share that knowledge by having a team compete in the series. His international racing experience will benefit everyone.”
The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series’ season-opening event is set for April 12-13 at Valencia in Spain. The six race-weekend schedule also includes stops at England’s Brands Hatch, Germany’s Nürburgring and the championship weekend at France’s famed LeMans. In addition, the series competes on the first purpose-built oval for stock cars in Europe, Tours Speedway in France.